29 January, 2011

There's always a moral to the story.

Once upon a time, there was a creative, impulsive, free spirited (and let's be honest, slightly unhinged) girl called Gabs. She grew up in an environment where she was actively encouraged to be creative, and was taught to sew and crochet, was given all the art supplies a girl could dream of, and was enrolled in classes where she could sing and act to her heart's content. She grew happy and confident in herself over the years, despite (or possibly because of) a string of increasingly awful jobs.

She was asked to lie for employers, she was passed over for promotion due to other members of her team being thinner or girlier, she made endless cups of tea and took minutes until her fingers could barely hold a pen. Then one day she was offered a role in a company where she could honestly see a future for herself (let's call it SPEX) with a manager (who for the purposes of this blog we'll call Saul) who seemed too good to be true. The team was friendly and sociable, she began to nest in the role and take on extra responsibilities wherever there was a need in the office. For three months she was praised for her capable proactivity, and then asked to take the role on a permanent basis. Despite the fact that she had planned to never work as a permanent PA again, she loved working at SPEX and decided to accept.

This of course meant that she'd be working yet another three months before coming off probation. This was not news to Gabs, and she wasn't worried as she'd always passed the probation stage with flying colours. She continued to work for Saul, who was a fairly easy guy to work for, very straightforward and no nonsense, which suited Gabs down to the ground. He was happy for her to take tasks in hand and sort them out without direction, as long as it got done properly everyone was satisfied. He even allowed Gabs to take over the role of Office Manager, business cards and all. Things were good.

Then, one day the general atmosphere in the office began to change. There were many murmurs of dodgy dealings behind closed doors, illicit affairs between the management team and junior members of staff, and redundancies under less than direct circumstances. Gabs did her best to not let the drama affect her, but over time it began to wear her down. She began to get headaches and stomachaches on a regular basis, and while at first she went to Saul with the issues within the department, she realised over time that while he might tell her he was going to sort out the problems, he was only saying that to shut her up. She also was informed that she would not be allowed to take the title of Office Manager, although it had been approved by Saul and the previous HR manager, and she'd been working the role for months. Even given this general feeling of unease, Gabs still had faith in the company and in Saul. She had already passed her interim review with flying colours, and in fact had been told she was 98% perfect, so she didn't have any misgivings on scheduling her final probationary review.

All right, kiddies, those of you that are faint of heart or queasy of stomach should look away now. That's right, there's a twist.

Gabs walked into her probationary review with her notepad at the ready, expecting it to be a simple formality as every other probation review had been in her past. Imagine her surprise when Saul started off by saying that her probation was going to be extended! He said she needed to be so aggressive chasing the team for deadlines that they complained about her, and followed that up by saying she needed to make more conservative choices with regards to colour in her wardrobe, even though SPEX had no dress code other than "office professional". The final nail in the coffin of Gabs' respect for Saul was when he said that she needed to learn to be "flirtatiously manipulative" to fully participate in the office politics.

In a maelstrom of disappointment and anger, Gabs attempted to speak with HR about the inappropriate things Saul had said to her. Attempted would be the right word, though, as HR was unwilling to back her up, and simply said "that's all in the past, let's deal with the future." At a loss for what to do, having been met with such unhelpful and unprofessional obstructions, she called legal advice and was told that she had a very good case for gender discrimination.

At this point, Gabs had a decision to make. Not being naturally litigious, she was extremely reluctant to go through the grievance/tribunal process, and she knew that if she were to do this is would make her position at SPEX untenable to say the least. She could just pretend everything was okay, as she'd learned in the past that letting Saul know she was upset by something simply meant that he wouldn't look at her full in the face for several days. Or, she could quit. The last option would mean that she had to start job hunting yet again... or would it?

Gabs had been flirting with the world of crafting for profit for years. She had a stall in Camden for a time, just making whatever she felt like at the time, and it had gone very well. Unfortunately for Gabs, Camden is pretty much a fifteen hours a day/seven days a week thing, and pairing that with married life would not have been a smooth ride, so she began looking for other crafty options. Thus she happened upon Etsy. This would allow her to have her crafty outlet and still work normal hours so as not to make her husband feel completely abandoned as Camden would have done. She began having a friend work on a logo for her, and started stockpiling crafty goodness.

With the dramatic downturn of her relationship with SPEX she began to think seriously about giving crafting a proper go. Why on earth should she start yet another horrible office job when she could be home making pretty things to grace the lives of total strangers? Not to mention the fact that there would be an extra three hours a day saved by not travelling to SPEX and back, she would have time for cooking, cleaning and baking again.

With all of this in mind, she decided to quit SPEX, work her two weeks' notice (as still being on probation meant she only owed them that much) and take the leap into full time crafting. She gave her notice to Saul, who appeared supremely unsurprised and frankly unaffected by the news, and began preparing her role for someone else to fill it.

Two days later, she was called into a meeting room with Saul, who informed her that she should pack her bags and go that very evening. He said that she had shared confidential information from his email inbox with a coworker who was going through a redundancy procedure (which came as a shock as she'd found the strictures of her confidentiality agreement difficult on more than one occasion and certainly hadn't broken it), and that she had been inappropriate on her facebook page. He even had a printed copy of one of her status updates, which amusingly enough was the one where she stated she'd packed in her job and was ecstatic about it. Gabs knew this for what it was, Saul's attempt to take the power back after she had taken it from him by quitting, and found the whole situation hysterically funny. She thanked him for letting her leave early, packed her things and walked out of the SPEX doors for the last time.

The moral of the story? Always wait until you're no longer under contract to spill the dirt about your previous employers. *grin*

26 January, 2011

A year in the life of Gabs.

It's official, it's been a whole year of this blog as of today.

I've had a look back over the first posts I wrote, and it's fascinating. My memory is notoriously rubbish, so it's actually kind of great to be able to read my own perspective on life as I know it. Because it's all about me, you see.

I've been an EA, a nanny, a PA, and now, a Craftsmistress. I've been happy, sad, furious, confused, tired... you name it, I've felt it this year. There have been extreme lows, bad work experiences, fights with Himself, finding out Sister 1 has Huntington's. There have been extreme highs, making new friends, having family visits, getting yet another gorgeous tattoo, and buying our first home.

I know that this isn't one of those blogs that attracts thousands of followers all over the world (like a few that I read on a regular basis) but those of you that do read it are the ones that count for me. Thanks for sticking with me through the drama of this year, I hope that I managed to make you laugh once or twice on the way.

I'm going to make myself some french toast now, and it's not because I only have enough yoghurt left for this particular concoction rather than putting it on my customary bowl of cereal... Okay, maybe it's mostly because of that, but I plan to eat it with cherry compote and enjoy every mouthful. Happy anniversary, ya'll. *grin*

14 January, 2011

From PA to Craftsmistress.

I've done it. I've told them where they can put their job. *grin* At first, my reasoning was "I'll just temp for a while, surely I can find enough temp jobs to work every week, or I could get a six month maternity cover or something..." Now, the more I think about it, the more I realise that I want to really give my crafting thing a proper go. I have no idea if I'll be successful, and The Fear is rearing its ugly head, but I get so excited even thinking about it that I just have to try.

I think I'll be happy. I'm already happier, knowing I'll only have to enter those doors ten more times. I know Himself enjoyed when I was home early enough to have made dinner before he got in, and it was great having time to do laundry during the week, but the main draw is the thought of pottering around in my sewing room, being creative for a living. Etsy has proven itself to be a warm, vital place where once you find a crafter whose wares you like, you keep going back. Hopefully I'll be able to gather enough of a following to allow me to potter around full time.

So, for the very first time, at the ripe old age of 31, I'm putting myself out there. Wish me luck, folks, but I hope I don't need it. *grin*

11 January, 2011

Groundhog Day, but not as funny.

Here we go again.

That's all I can think at the moment. I'm sure all of you are sick to death of me complaining about my job(s), so I'm not going to go into detail. I'll just say, here we go again.

My friends are all quitting. The way the company is treating its staff doesn't exactly inspire confidence or a sense of security. One managed to find a new role at BAA (lucky cow). One was made redundant through dodgy circumstances and left yesterday. One resigned today. Who's next? I wouldn't put money on it taking longer than a week for the next person to throw in the towel.

I can't decide if the string of crappy jobs I've had in the last seven or eight years is because I'm a bad judge of character, or if the universe is trying to tell me something. I know I'm not cut out for office work in the long term scheme of things. I'm creative, I love to cook and bake, I sew, I garden, I doodle, I craft. If I could make a living from doing one (or all) of those activities, I'd be in heaven. Maybe I should just go for it, take the bull by the horns and go all out for a career, rather than just making do with jobs.

The thing stopping me from doing just that is simple. I have a healthy dose of The Fear. What if I'm not as good at all that stuff as I think I am? What if nobody would buy my goods, what if I couldn't make ends meet on the proceeds, what if I look like a fool... what if, what if, what if. I know I'm lucky in that I have a great husband who would keep a roof over my head if it came down to it, but I can't afford (WE can't afford) for me to simply stop working, and I don't think I could stay sane without something to occupy me anyway.

Maybe it's time to just take the plunge. Maybe it would all work out for the best, and I'd be ecstatically happy working for myself. Maybe I'll get famous for designing/making killer handmade goods, and I'll get picked up by Graham & Green or Pedlars. Maybe. ; )

Don't be surprised if my next post says I've quit my job. At this point, I could only get happier.

09 January, 2011

For Judy.

I got a message on facebook this week with some sad news. My oldest friend in the world has passed away. Rather than dwell on the guilt that immediately kicked in from having lost touch with him and with his family since I moved to the UK, I've decided to write about my memories of Josh.

We met when I was five. My mother and I had moved in with her new husband, and down the street was a hellion of a little boy to whom I was immediately drawn. He was barely contained chaos. Sweet chaos, but chaos nonetheless. We ran up and down the street, played fairly regularly, and then... it happened. The infamous Beer Bottle Incident. He... relieved himself... into a beer bottle and poured the resulting liquid over my brand new scooter. Can I remember why he did it? Not a chance. I gingerly wheeled the tainted scooter home and vowed never to speak to that... that BOY... ever again.

The joy of being a kid is that "never ever" can sometimes just mean "for about a year". I don't remember what drove me to run down the street and ask if Josh could come out to play, it just seemed like a good idea. Luckily, he was a kid too, and had also forgotten why we'd fought in the first place. Thus commenced (after that single year long urine-induced hiccup) the adventures of Josh and Gabs.

We built tree houses in his back yard (which led to Josh stepping on a rusty nail and requiring a tetanus shot, and to yours truly taking a firm hold of a spiny caterpillar while tying two branches together and having my hand swell up like a balloon). We dug huge holes for basements to clubhouses (which undermined the foundations of the clubhouses and saw me ride one frame to the ground like a surfer as it collapsed). We played video games, and on his monkey bars (which saw both of us at one time or another land flat on our backs on the ground, gasping for breath). Wow, reading over that paragraph really makes me wonder how we made it through our childhoods with all our limbs intact...

Josh was the most physically inclined person I'd ever met. He could turn cartwheels in ever decreasing circles around the front yard like a spun coin. He could scale the pine tree next to his house in seconds flat, a feat I never managed even once. The main tree in his yard, I could manage that one... at least until his dad cut off my preferred access branch, then I was earthbound while I watched him dangle from branches by one arm like a primate.

Our teenage years saw us getting into a slightly different sort of trouble. Josh and his friends started smoking weed, which I refused to try, but luckily for me it didn't disqualify me from hanging out with them while they laughed like idiots and scoffed huge piles of Little Debbie snack cakes. I could never understand how they were so hungry... *lol* Naivete, thy name was Gabs. Josh, being technologically minded, fashioned a motorised bong from an old speaker and a computer fan. I would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to run down the street and sit in the final incarnation of our never ending quest for the perfect tree house, and laboured under the misapprehension that our mothers were none the wiser until a few years ago when my mother mentioned that the muddy tennis shoes under the window sort of gave me away...

I started dating one of his friends when I was about sixteen. It was hardly a match made in heaven, but I was young enough not to care that he was dumber than dirt. What I didn't realise was that Josh had developed some feelings for me over the years, which he managed to hide for the first few weeks of my "relationship" with his mate. When I realised what was going on, I ended it with the friend. Josh and I gave it the old college try, but the kissing always ended with us in hysterical laughter, so we found a balance by staying friends and not dating each others mates.

I don't know where his life went when I moved to the UK. I heard he was married, but I don't know if he had children. I don't know what he ended up doing for a living. I hope he was happy with how his life turned out. I know his family must be in bits from the loss, and I hope they know my thoughts are with them, no matter how long I've been away. I loved the guy, he was a great friend. RIP Josh Jones.